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Nuts, often a staple during the holiday season, present an easy opportunity for your dog to come along and have a munch. Nuts are delicious, wholesome, and natural, but are they good for dogs? We’ll explore which nuts are occasionally okay for dogs to eat—and which nuts are dangerous for dogs.
First of all, a few occasional nuts shouldn’t cause your dog any problems. If they eat a large amount, however, the story changes. Dogs can have problems with nuts because of:
- High fat content
- Additives and sweeteners in nut mixes
Cashews, almonds, walnuts, and other common nuts contain a high amount of fat, which dogs can’t digest easily. High-fat foods like nuts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) in our pets.
What’s more, nuts that have been sitting out for a while can develop a mold that contains tremorgenic mycotoxins, which can cause neurological issues in dogs. This should be of particular concern to pet parents of counter surfers and trash diggers.
One hidden danger with dogs eating nuts is that nuts often come packaged with additives like chocolate, raisins, sweeteners, or salt. Any of these can be toxic to dogs in high enough amounts.
Size also matters with nuts and dogs: if you have a toy or small-breed dog, larger whole nuts such as pecans or walnuts can obstruct their intestines after swallowed, making it difficult for them to defecate.
Peanut butter is not inherently dangerous for dogs, of course. We all know dogs who love peanut butter! There’s a reason it’s commonly used to help give medicines to pets.
That said, peanut butter contains a lot of calories and can lead to obesity. Also, some nut butters labeled “sugar-free” contain the artificial sweetener Xylitol, which can cause liver failure in dogs. It’s good practice to check the label to be sure you’re not giving Xylitol to your dog. Better yet, find a substitute treat for peanut butter.
If you see any of these symptoms in your dog, consult your vet right away.
- Macadamia nuts (toxic): Toxicity signs include vomiting, difficulty walking, depression, cold intolerance, and weakness. These signs aren’t fatal, and the ingestion of these nuts isn’t considered lethal.
- Walnuts (not toxic): Walnuts have a lot of fat, which can cause pancreatitis and upset stomach. They’re also too large for dogs to chew properly and may cause intestinal obstruction. Moldy walnuts also contain tremorgenic mycotoxins.
- Hickory nuts (not toxic): They can cause stomach upset and intestinal obstruction. Moldy hickory nuts contain tremorgenic mycotoxins.
The following nuts are safer for dogs, but all of them contain a lot of fat, which can cause weight gain, pancreatitis, and upset stomach in your pet in larger quantities.
- Brazil nuts
You may notice signs of toxicity within 12 hours of nut ingestion. Neurological signs like muscle tremors, weakness, and seizures are more likely to occur after your dog ingests macadamia nuts or old nuts. Vomiting and diarrhea that doesn’t resolve could be a sign of pancreatitis and requires immediate treatment.
Any of these signs can be alarming and should be evaluated by an emergency veterinarian. It’s always helpful to disclose to the veterinarian what your dog may have eaten so they can give your dog proper treatment.
What’s the prognosis for dogs who eat nuts? As long as they don’t develop pancreatitis, the outlook is usually good since the signs often resolve on their own (even without treatment) within 12-48 hours.
To prevent your dog from eating nuts, hide nuts or place them in inaccessible areas. Instead of feeding your dog peanut butter, opt for the Kong Easy Treat version, which doesn’t have nuts in it. Checking labels to be sure dangerous additives aren’t present is always recommended. Dog treats labeled with peanut butter should be given sparingly.
Nuts can cause dogs to have an upset stomach, diarrhea, and neurological signs like tremors. While these signs are usually self-limiting and go away on their own, seeking veterinary medical attention if you see these signs is a good idea.
So this holiday, if you would like to roast chestnuts by an open fire, make sure to keep them out of reach of your dog.
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